Saskatchewan

Conexus paid $3.25M to lease Wascana Park land for its new head office

The University of Regina says Conexus Credit Union is paying $3.25 million to lease the Wascana Park land where the financial institution is constructing its head office.

Brandt is building 4-storey commercial building on parkland leased for $1

Pictured in the foreground is the new Conexus building, which will house the business incubator, and head offices. Darke Hall and the College Avenue campus can be seen in the background. (Supplied/P3A )

The University of Regina says Conexus Credit Union is paying $3.25 million to lease the Wascana Park land where the financial institution is constructing its head office.

According to a statement from a U of R official, "Conexus' lease over 90 years is $3.25 million plus GST. It has been paid in full."

By comparison, CNIB is being charged one dollar a year for 99 years to lease the Wascana Park land where Brandt Developments is planning to build its four-storey commercial office building.

The NDP's Nicole Sarauer said the contrast is further proof that Brandt, one of Saskatchewan's largest companies and one of the Saskatchewan Party's largest donors, is getting a "sweetheart deal."

Conexus is paying essentially fair market while Brandt is paying $99.- Nicole Sarauer, Sask. NDP

"Conexus is paying essentially fair market while Brandt is paying $99. That can't sit right with Conexus nor do I think it sits right with the general public," she said.

For its lease payment, Brandt will be permitted to erect its office building on 2.52 acres of Wascana Park land.  Over the term of the 99 year lease, that's about 40 cents per acre annually.

By contrast, Conexus is building on 1.7 acres of land. Over the term of its lease, it will pay more than $21,000 per acre annually.  

The university does note that in the end, the amount of land Conexus leases may change "with the final footprint of the leased area to be determined based on placement of utilities. The lease value will not change if footprint area changes."

According to the university, the land it is leasing to Conexus has been appraised at a market value of $1.15 million per acre.

Duelling donations

In addition to the lease payment, Conexus is donating $5 million to help the U of R restore the College Ave Campus.   

Brandt bills its office tower as philanthropic too. It is donating 4,000 square feet of its 77,500 square foot building to CNIB for its new office.  

In a news release Tuesday, the NDP scoffed at the idea that Brandt was being philanthropic.  

The Brandt project is expected to be complete by 2020. (Colliers International)

The NDP calculates the company will make $2.2 million annually leasing the facility out at $30 a square foot.  

"The Sask. Party gave this company a licence to print money while talking about 'tough choices' to justify cutting supports in kids' classrooms," Sarauer was quoted as saying in an NDP news release.   

Sarauer said while she doesn't approve of leasing off parkland for commercial ventures, she said at least with Conexus, the public is getting some financial benefit.  

She said it's a different story with the Brandt project. She said its building will be used for purposes not allowed by legislation and the project won't return any money to the public.  

"That's real money that we could have seen invested back in the park, invested back in the future of the jewel of the city," she said.  

Saskatchewan's provincial auditor has announced she will review the Brandt project as part of her 2019 auditor's report. The NDP wants the government to withhold approval of the project until that audit is complete.

For its part, the provincial government says all of the proper processes have been followed with the Brandt project and it says the CNIB will benefit greatly from it.  

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